The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

Textbook buyback: Our pain for their gain?

The third week of the semester is drawing to a close, and if you’re like me you haven’t bought half your textbooks yet. The chore of buying textbooks – along with the anxiety of adding and dropping classes – is just another burden I can’t bear to face. I know I speak for the majority of students here when I say the DVC bookstore and the depletion of my bank account has become the reason for my feelings of disgruntled bitterness. What’s extraordinary though is I have finally found something that irks me more than shopping for textbooks: Selling textbooks.

Much to my chagrin, DVC’s ‘textbook buyback’ option failed to offer me- or any students I interviewed- any reasonable imbursement. Sofia Putri, an Inquirer reporter and third semester student, recounted how she was paid a mere $20 for her three English books that cost over $50. Both of my $80 history books were revalued at an insulting $5. Think that’s bad? My jazz and statistics textbooks were deemed ‘worthless’- despite the fact that the books are requirements for current DVC classes. I was outraged! How could the bookstore charge such ridiculous prices for my used textbooks and not offer anything in return?

Surprisingly, the DVC bookstore has very little control over the textbook buyback program. The Nebraska Book Company (NBC) serves over 2.1 million students across the country with the textbook buyback program. Each month, NBC issues colleges a ‘buyer’s guide’ which dictates the selling price of used textbooks as well as the prices that NBC pay for said books. As a general rule, you can expect no more than 50 percent of the book’s original value. Many of the textbooks are valued as low as a dollar.

One might assume that the used textbook business is highly lucrative, with companies such as the NBC and the DVC bookstore raking in an enormous profit. However, despite what the endless queues and shelves of books suggest, the DVC bookstore struggles to stay afloat. “We’re essentially a non-profit organization,” admitted Bill Foster, the general manager of the DVC bookstore. “We rely heavily on students to supply us with used textbooks that we need. With the soaring prices of new textbooks, we need all the money we can [get] in order to keep shelves stocked.” With the buyer’s guide, the bookstore has little control over how much they pay for used textbooks. “We’re essentially the middle-man. We’re what the student sees, and therefore, we are the target of the students’ anger.”

Strangely, in May of last year, the NBC filed for bankruptcy, seeking exemption from over 210 million dollars in debt. Their apparent ploy to take advantage of poor, debt-ridden students was in reality, just an honest source of revenue – revenue that was not enough to sustain them in the highly saturated textbook market.

Humbled by this new information, I decided to re-evaluate my feelings on the bookstore and textbook buyback. These companies are struggling in a harsh economy and their existence is not

as secure as we may think it is. But while I have become more enlightened on the issues of the bookstore, I was no closer to solving my own financial issues. How could I sell my textbooks?

Intimidating options like eBay and Craigslist may be less daunting than one would think. With my listing on Craigslist I unloaded three textbooks within a few days with no commission charge.

However, I believe the best way to sell your books is straight to the student. Last week I overheard a group of students discussing their new statistics class and the ridiculous prices of the required textbook. Wait a minute – I had that textbook! I approached the group, introduced myself, and met a bunch of great people. Why not meet some new students that lie outside your circle of friends? For a community college, there’s a real lack of community – but that’s an issue to be addressed at a later day.

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About the Contributor
Samantha Chiu
Samantha Chiu, Managing editor
Samantha Chiu is the spring 2013 managing editor. She was sports editor in fall 2012.

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Textbook buyback: Our pain for their gain?